Sunday, February 3, 2008

A No Vote on McCain
Mike Rappaport

This will be the first of two posts that I plan to write on the presidential election. The first post will give my reasons for opposing John McCain and therefore supporting Mitt Romney. The second will discuss the fact that McCain is much more likely to beat the Democrats than Romney and how we should weigh that fact.

On the basis of their political positions, I simply cannot vote for John McCain. Like many free-market Republicans, I have long disliked him. Now that he is the front runner, and is said to have the best chance of beating the Democrats in the general election, I have thought long and hard about whether I can support him. At this point, I simply cannot.

There are just too many issues where I strongly disagree with John McCain. Let me list some of them:

1. Not only does McCain support McCain- Feingold, it is one of his signature issues. This will infect many aspects of his presidency, including his appointment of judges. It will be devastating to have a President and a Congress who strongly support this issue at the same time.

2. McCain opposed the Bush Tax Cuts, and what is worse, used class warfare rhetoric to criticize them.

3. McCain has taken strong positions against doing anything about illegal immigration. I don’t believe his recent “conversion” on the issue. For the record, I favor a large amount of legal immigration, but I believe that illegal immigration needs to be addressed.

4. McCain opposes strong interrogation techniques, including waterboarding, for top members of Al Qaeda like Khalid Sheik Mohammed.

5. McCain wants to close down Guantanamo.

6. McCain favors reimportation of drugs.

7. McCain takes a strong position on opposing global warming. For the record, I think that the evidence probably supports taking some actions now, such as establishing prizes for the development of technology reducing greenhouse gases, but not the kind of strong regulatory actions that McCain seems to support.

8. McCain opposes drilling in ANWR.

9. McCain generally favors regulating American business, including pharmaceutical companies and transportation companies. This is his instinctual reaction to actions he does not like. He does not seem to understand economics. Recently, he spoke about the subprime problem in terms of “greedy people on Wall Street who need to go to jail."

10. McCain would not be good on judges. Despite his claims to the contrary, there is strong evidence that he would not have appointed Alito. And he is not likely to appoint people who think campaign finance is unconstitutional.   

I recognize that McCain has been good on some issues. As he constantly reminds us, he vigorously supported the surge. And he seems to be strongly against excessive spending.  He even opposed the Bush Prescription Drug bill. But I just don’t think these are enough. 

More importantly, I don’t trust McCain on most domestic issues. I know McCain was against Medicare prescription drugs. But imagine that the Democrats have control of both houses and they send him a national health care bill that does not spend too much federal money but instead imposes obligations on employers. Would McCain sign it? My fear is that he would do it in a heartbeat.

In the past, I thought the strongest argument for McCain was that he was the most likely candidate to beat the Democrats. Isn’t half a loaf better than nothing? I now believe that this argument is mistaken – and will explain why in my next post.

Update: I respond to Ilya Somin's comments here.

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Mike Rappaport


I don't know if you are trying to save the Romney primary campaign or setting up an argument that either Clinton or Obama are, ultimately, better choices than McCain. If the former, I think the answer will come on Tuesday--and I suspect McCain will have enough delegates to cinch the nomination.

I am interested in whether you think McCain should be supported against either Clinton or Obama. I read that Ann Coulter will suport Clinton--I must assume that she prefers Deval Patrick and Willie Fletcher on the Supreme Court rather than whomever McCain would pick and a more or less unilateral withdrawal from Iraq and, possibly, even Afganistan.

So, I await with interest your second post on the topic.

Posted by: Paul McKaskle | Feb 3, 2008 7:37:17 PM

The only thing I need against McCain is the McCain-Feingold "campaign finance reform" law. It allowed people like George Soros to funnel millions into left-wing advocacy groups like, EMILY's list, &c.

He evidently doesn't think things through.

Posted by: ZZMike | Feb 4, 2008 9:35:18 AM

ZZMike--So, your point is that, regardless of whether McCain-Feingold is constitutional, because it had the effect of favoring Democrats/liberals, you're not gonna support him? That certainly seems like deep, thoughtful analysis.

Posted by: David C. Brayton | Feb 4, 2008 10:05:21 AM

No wonder McCain is considered to have the better shot against Dems: I generally vote Democratic, and all those issues you listed have piqued my interest in him. (I know this site is generally dominated by conservative thought, but I figured you guys might like my two cents -- if nothing else than as evidence of what us liberals are thinking.)

Posted by: underrated | Feb 4, 2008 10:27:57 AM

You said: The second will discuss the fact that McCain is much more likely to beat the Democrats than Romney and how we should weigh that fact.

"It's not the things people don't know, it's the things they 'know' that ain't necessarily so."

John McCain is an ass, a jerk, a bad-tempered snotty old man. He is where he is because the MSM are in the tank for him.

Does ANYONE really think that's going to hold if he becomes the Republican nominee?

Add in a dispirited base, and he's the LEAST likely candidate to beat Obama, or even Hillary.

Posted by: Greg D | Feb 4, 2008 12:17:06 PM

I have some sympathy with Greg D's comment. But I still think McCain is more likely to win than Romney. In any event, mine is an argument for why a McCain victory would be bad.

Posted by: Mike Rappaport | Feb 4, 2008 1:30:23 PM

The choice is Romney, and you could make a much scarier list of Romney's past policy positions, from a conservative perspective. Judicial appointments being among the forefront. A criticism of McCain is pretty meaningless without a comparative analysis.

Posted by: frankcross | Feb 4, 2008 7:52:59 PM

"...a more or less unilateral withdrawal from Iraq and, possibly, even Afganistan."
Much as we on the right side of the aisle would want to believe it, that is just not reality. Hillary is not going to allow Iraq to fall and become an caliphate, she is not going to let the middle east urupt into a region wide civil war that would drive up the price of oil to $200 a barrel and cause a global depression, because she would be driven from office in four years like a pariah. She is not going to allow an attack on US soil, because if it happened on her watch, she'd be the viewed as the Carter and McGovern rolled into one. If there was a probable attack coming, McCain would make sure any prisioner with knowledge of it was only interviewed in the presence of someone from the ACLU to make sure his Koran didn't get dust on it. Hillary would personally hook electrodes to his n*ts and turn the crank to see what he knows.
The Clintons are leftists, sure, but they are always, primarily ruthless pragamists, looking to the next election cycle. Anyone who doesn't know that, doesn't know them.

Posted by: gregh | Feb 4, 2008 8:07:49 PM

In response to Frank Cross:

I believe that Romeny is far preferable to McCain. Romney has changed his positions, and I trust many of these changes for a variety of reasons. Your point that a comparative analysis is needed is correct, but misses my full position. As I describe in this series of posts, my preferences are as follows: 1st Romney win; 2nd McCain loss (to Democrat) for the long run good of the Republican party; 3rd McCain victory.

Posted by: Mike Rappaport | Feb 4, 2008 10:58:54 PM

In my opinion, the media has it wrong. McCain loses to both Hillary and Obama. The latter by a landslide. Romney beats Hillary and loses to Obama in a close one. Why? In a Hillary v McCain match, all of the media gloves are off and McCain gets trounced as his past is brought up in a mudslinging contest. Hillary actually does appear more qualified and intellegent. Hillary wins the mud slinging campaign because McCain cannot take advantage of Hillary weaknesses because, alas, to the layman they are similar to his own. The both reek of establishment.
Obama's zeal and momentum would crush McCain as the two are compared and independents are siphoned from him even more quickly than Republicans turn away in apathy.

Romney probably wouldn't beat Obama either, but would contrast very nicely and make a good showing. Romney beats Clinton because head to head he can contrast her shady business background, lack of executive experience, and general Washington insiderness.

That all is said in vain, alas, Romney will probably fall short on Tuesday, and my point will be moot.

Posted by: Sam Goble | Feb 4, 2008 11:15:33 PM

As a liberal, here's what I hear when I read your list:

1. McCain-Fiengold: He doesn't believe that you can buy rights in this country.
2. Bush tax-cuts: He opposes the Bush tax cuts for the right reason.
3. Immigration: You aren't happy even when you get what you want.
4. "Interrogation": McCain opposes torture.
5. Guantanamo: McCain wants to close down Guantanamo.
6. Canadian drugs: (I'll give you 6, but it's a pretty weak objection)
7. Global Warming: McCain takes externalities seriously
8. ANWAR: Priorities: Oil vs. Environment
9. Economics (?): (most of which is just a series of assertions) As for subprime: you're right, the greedy people who caused this wern't working on Wall St. and didn't break the law (which, incidentally, is the problem).
10.Judges: Unadulterated speculation

Posted by: Anon | Feb 5, 2008 5:20:30 AM

The trust Romney's changes position is interesting. I can see that his institutional position would influence him to keep to the conservative positions. However, I can also see how working with a Dem Congress could cause him to take much more liberal positions. Mostly, I think it is a sign of how very weak the conservative choices are, that the best candidate for conservatives is the guy who tried to get to the left of Ted Kennedy in a Senate election and who has pretty much zero record of conservatism while in actual elected office.

Posted by: frankcross | Feb 5, 2008 7:56:54 AM